Grasshopper beats old master

By Chris Pedersen

Winning two sports championships in a row in most sports is difficult and squash is no different. Graeme Schnell, a squash player from the University of Calgary, successfully defended his Canadian University and Colleges Championship in Toronto on March 8, defeating the University of Waterloo’s Eric Dingle 3-2 (11-9, 6-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-5) in the final.

“It felt really good to win a second time,” said Schnell. “The first one was more of a shock, this one I knew I was capable of winning.”

Schnell entered the tournament as the number one seed as he played in a lot of tournaments that counted towards the Canadian Squash ranking. Being number one has advantages and can make tournament play easier.

“Since I was the number one seed, I got a bye for the first round,” said Schnell. “I got into the quarter-finals without playing a game.”

The quarter-finals were not a difficult task for Schnell and he easily defeated his opponent Andrew Kane from the University of Waterloo 3-0 (11-5, 11-1, 11-3).

“He was a decent player, but he didn’t really push me to hard,” said Schnell. “I got in there and got a feel for the court– since the ball bounces differently at sea level. As soon as I won that I progressed to the semis.”

Schnell was matched up in the semi-final with Iain Crozier from the University of Western Ontario. Crozier plays in the National Collegiate Athletics Association in the United States and had the talent to present a tough challenge for Schnell.

“I ended up taking him out in three straight sets,” said Schnell. “So that was good from a rest point of view because I didn’t want to get super tired for the next day, plus it felt good to beat him 3-0 since he was a highly ranked player.”

With the semi-finals behind him, Schnell would be taking on the tournaments other superstar– his former coach Dingle.

“He used to coach me when I was a really, really young player,” said Schnell. “He is a really fierce competitor and it was cool to have two guys in the final from the same club in Calgary.”

After cruising through the first two rounds as easily as a drunk frat boy flying down a slip and slide, the final proved to be a much tougher affair. Schnell took the first game 11-9 and then eased up. He felt the pressure from the crowd and slipped a little in the second and third game, losing 11-6 and 11-9.

“I knew what he [Dingle] was capable of and really hard to beat,” said Schnell. “You can’t ease up on a guy like Eric. I was actually losing 2-1 and I was really, really nervous being the favourite. The whole crowd was against me, since I was from out west. You just have to tone that out.”

Schnell managed to relax after the third game and began to ignore the crowd, focusing on beating his old coach. In the fourth and fifth game, he found his second wind and handily beat Dingle 11-6 and 11-5.

“I came out fired in the fifth game and won those easily,” said Schnell. “Last year was a lot easier to win.”

By becoming the champion of Canada in a year that the World University Squash championships are held, Schnell qualified and gets to travel to exotic places to compete. Last year Schnell traveled to Cairo, Egypt and is looking to head to Australia if he is able to win a third Canadian championship next year.

It will take constant training, something which Schnell manages to fit into a busy school schedule.

“It depends so my exam schedule, I wish I could say that I had a straight forward training schedule. I try and play at least six hours a week. I try to play one hour a night. When I don’t have busy exams I try and get on two times a day for an hour. I never seem to go below five hours a week.”

If you find yourself in the squash courts at the U of C, look to see a redheaded squash phenomenon battering a tiny rubber ball against a plain white wall.

Leave a comment